Meridian's 96/24 Digital Loudspeakers First on Market

Cambridge, England's Meridian Ltd. has been making digital active (or self-powered) loudspeakers since 1990. Regarded as the best among the very few companies to offer such a product, Meridian has taken the concept to a new level by introducing three DSP-series loudspeakers with 24-bit/96kHz capability: the DSP6000, DSP5500, and DSP5000---all bearing the 96/24 suffix to distinguish them from their lower-resolution predecessors. Meridian introduced two 96kHz-capable subwoofers, the DSW1500 and DSW2500, at the 1999 Consumer Electronics Show.

The new series has powerful 80MIPS DSPs (80 million instructions per second digital signal processor chips) providing 48-bit crossover filters, and 24-bit DACs buffered by Meridian's proprietary FIFO (first-in/first-out) technology. Introduced in the 861 Reference Processor, FIFO is claimed to reduce jitter to "vanishing levels."

One huge advantage to performing the crossover function in the digital domain is that the acoustic wavelaunch remains phase-coherent at all points in the audio spectrum---something that is impossible with analog crossover networks. Traditional crossovers always involve compromises and phase cancellations at certain frequencies. Another advantage to Meridian's design is that each driver (with the exception of the woofers) is controlled by its own dedicated amplifier, connected by the shortest possible length of cable.

The new speakers, like other Meridian products, can be upgraded via software. "Future-proofed" is the way Wes Phillips puts it. Formerly Stereophile's equipment reports editor, Phillips now handles Meridian's public relations through his new employer, J.B. Stanton Communications, Inc. The modular design "ensures that the speakers will be able to accommodate any future digital interfaces as they are developed," according to Phillips.

Meridian has long offered affordable upgrades to its customers, and will continue to do so for previous models of DSP loudspeakers. The DSP6000, Meridian's flagship product, remained in Class A of Stereophile's "Recommended Components" list longer than any other loudspeaker. Upgrade prices and procedures will be announced in the near future, Phillips said.

Prices: The three-way, six-driver DSP6000 96/24 will retail for $19,995/pair. Each DSP6000 96/24 is capable of 300W of output via four 75W internal power amplifiers. At $12,500-$13,000/pair, the next step down, the DSP5500 96/24, also features four 75W amplifiers, but sports two fewer woofers than its larger sibling. The smallest of the three new speakers, the DSP5000 96/24, has three 75W amplifiers powering its three drivers, and will sell for $6950-$7200 depending on finish. A DVD/CD transport or player with 24/96 digital output and a pair of DSP loudspeakers compose an entire two-channel audio system.